The next morning Liam and I had an early swim [Jollyboys really is an awesome backpackers], and after some breakfast of bread and peanut butter [it is your friend while travelling], we set off for Lusaka. South Africans, be grateful for your roads! 'Potholes' hardly does justice to what we experienced.
Zambia is a gem for anyone who wants to see Africa, regarding the landscape. It is lush bushveld, dotted with typically African villages here and there. There are also hills and rivers, and the drive never once stopped being breathtaking. Lusaka, on the other hand, is not exactly my choice of destination. It is an eerie city, with nothing beautiful to it. The fact that it was a public holiday and everyone on the streets was hideously drunk did not help. But we found ourselves a place to stay, a Wimpy [or something to eat that was familiar but not bread and peanut butter], and had ourselves a decent night's sleep.
The next day it was off to the border to head into Malawi. It is true what they say about the locals here- they are some of the friendliest people you will ever meet! We realised our tyres on the car were a little done for, and after finding every store in Lilongwe closed on this Saturday we decided we'd leave the car at the backpackers while we headed north, and rewarded ourselves with some beers in the pool after a long, hot day of driving.
The following day [where are we now? Ah yes, the third of January] we took a bus north to Mzuzu. Now, this was probably our most African experience so far. The seats were filled, but so were the aisles and personal space flew out the window as people leaned on and -over everyone and used one another to prop up elbows and goods. But that night we stayed at Sarah's uncle's place, and all got involved as we raided their enormous vegetable garden and cooked up curried rice with soya, spiced chicken and salad, all while drinking local liqeur and snacking on fried aubergine on bread. Showering, a bed and good food were a nice change.
The next day was spent in Nkhata Bay, on Lake Malawi, and I have to say that Lake Malawi is my favourite place on earth! I want it for Christmas. The water is blue like you've never seen [and 30 degrees Celsius], and all around there are beautiful trees, quaint houses and a most stunning view of seemingly endless water. We snorkled, canoed and while the others explored the village I went scuba diving. This was my first dive since qualifying, as well as being my first boat dive, altitude dive and freshwater dive. The fish were beautiful [highlights include upside-down fish, huge catfish and dolphin fish], and the rock formations are enormous!
After a good lunch we swam until dusk, then packed our things to board the Ilala Ferry. We took it to Nkhotakota, which took about 24 hours. We slept on the deck [a blessing that it didn't rain, but even getting drenched in one's sleep would be more pleasant than the smell on the lower levels], and spent an entire day chilling out on the decks, reading and chatting, having the odd snooze. The Ilala is something you must do when in Malawi, and the views of Malawi and Mocambique are beautiful from start to finish.
We got onto the transport boats and headed to shore at abour 8pm. When everyone started jumping off before we even reached the beach, we realised we weren't going to reach the beach. So we jumped off, and trudged ashore. Wet jeans? Not so pleasant. But sitting on a little overloaded boat, looking up to see more stars than I had ever seen in a sky made it totally worth it all.
We were filthy after the ferry trip [the only things dirtier than us on it were the bathrooms], and we were grateful to find a lovely backpackers right on the beach and, much to our surpirse, run by some Afrikaans tannies from Pretoria! We spent some time admiring the view from the roof, had three showers each and slept on bunk beds which turned out to be cheaper than any of the camping spots we had been to.
This morning, after coffee and toasted sandwiches, we caught a taxi back to Lilongwe. Once again it was completely overloaded [turns out there is no such thing as a full taxi], and by the time a man boarded carrying three live chickenes under his arm, we knew we were in Africa! After four uncomfortable hours we got back to our camp in Lilongwe, and here I sit. It is boiling hot, with the promise of rain later.
Tomorrow we'll head back to Lusaka depending on our car situation. But for now, I need a beer and a swim.
More later [with pictures coming soon too!].